When: Noon-5 p.m., Saturday, November 14, 2015
Starts At: St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 545 S 5th Ave.
Benefits: Armory Park’s own Neighbors Feeding Neighbors Program
You can buy tickets at St. Andrew’s on tour day. Or to pay in advance, click on the following link and designate “Home Tour” for your donation. Print your receipt and bring it to the home tour. That will serve as your ticket: https://www.networkforgood.org/donation/ExpressDonation.aspx?ORGID2=237455932
For information call 520/730-7919, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Now that we have that out of the way, a bit about our neighborhood…
Journey through Tucson’s architectural evolution on Saturday, November 14, when downtown denizens open their doors for the Armory Park Historic District Tour. This self-guided stroll offers a glimpse at styles ranging from California bungalow and dainty Victorian to clever, contemporary, adaptations of vintage commercial buildings.
Historic and eclectic. Those words pair nicely in describing this year’s tour, which includes a former Tastee Freeze ice cream shop, now transformed into a renowned glass art studio; a circa 1888 adobe, where the ceiling in a outdoor breezeway is comprised of railroad ties and crates; a Colonial-Revival style house dating from 1901, recently renovated to include a master bedroom suite; a dignified, former Odd Fellows Hall that’s since become home to art galleries and a bustling restaurant; a Queen Anne bungalow, dating from 1898, gutted and then restored in exquisite detail.
More than a dozen homes, businesses, gardens and other properties will welcome you, with each of them exemplifying a notch on Armory Park’s diverse timeline. And long that line is, dating back to the railroad’s arrival here in 1880. Within a few short years, Victorians and Queen Annes had become all the rage among railroad executives, who looked down their noses at the traditional adobes then dominating the town.
But such snobbery came at a cost, says Tucson historian Ken Scoville. “They used double brick and a lot of material that was largely imported. It was the pressure of fashion, with people scorning adobe, but as a result, their homes were colder in the winter and hotter in summer.”
He says Armory was also among the first parts of Tucson to be laid out on a grid. “And today, unlike other downtown districts, such as the barrios, which were chipped away, Armory Park is pretty much intact.”
Taking its name from Armory Park, located on Sixth Avenue at the site of a former military plaza, the neighborhood initially spread up Third and Fourth avenues, and by 1900 had reached all the way south to 18th Street.
As noted by Scoville, traditional Spanish and Mexican designs were giving way to Anglo styles in this boom, and even existing adobe homes were retrofitted–ergo Anglicized–with wooden porches and roofs.
Ultimately, home designs flourishing during that period still make Armory Park’s architecture distinctive. This area is also known for a design called Anglo-territorial, with pyramidal roofs and broad porches.
“It’s not the barrio style, and it’s not (downtown’s) El Presidio Neighborhood,” says one longtime resident. “Armory has its own feel and character.”
Neighbors Feeding Neighbors
In the tidy kitchen of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Jefferson Bailey is placing a sprig of parsley just so. His prep area is a checkerboard of little boxed lunches–potato, broccoli, roast beef–precisely arranged inside Styrofoam containers. When collective perfection is achieved, each box is snapped shut and hustled off to the coolers.
Those gleaming coolers, recently donated, can store a week’s worth of meals, which eventually are dispersed to shut-ins and other hungry folks scattered among downtown neighborhoods.
While the need for Bailey’s efforts seems obvious, that wasn’t always true. In this seemingly middle-class enclave, hunger is surprisingly hidden; a government friend told him that 40 percent of nearby residents live below the federal poverty level.
“To me, it was a big eye-opener,” he says. “If so, who were they?”
So beginning in 2007, volunteers pounded the pavement, looking for folks who’d fallen through the cracks. They also visited the Armory Park Senior Center, retrieving the names of those who had stopped dropping by for meals. “We identified about 14 people who were no longer mobile enough to get there,” Bailey says. “And that’s how we got started.”
Today, his Neighbors Feeding Neighbors program provides meals for downtown residents who are elderly or disabled. It does so without any government assistance, relying solely on donations. “And the only bureaucracy,” Bailey chuckles, “is inside my head.” Rotating volunteer teams put in three-hour kitchen shifts, while another team distributes meals along with packages of yogurt, bread and fruit.
The rest is history. “It’s just people living in the neighborhoods, delivering food to people in the neighborhoods,” Bailey says, as he reaches for more Styrofoam boxes to be arranged just so.